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Voices Of The Commons
Voices Of The Commons

Episode 1 · 2 years ago

Silke Helfrich & David Bollier: What Is The Commons? Ep 1

ABOUT THIS EPISODE

Welcome to the Voices of the Commons Podcast!


The Voices of the Commons Transition follows from our web interview series, "Commoners in Transition".


The first episode features Free, Fair and Alive authors Silke Helfrich and David Bollier answering the question, "How can people get into the commons?" and much more. They explore ways to relate the narrative of the Commons to everyday lives and circumstances while also exploring possible Commons futures.

Welcome to the voices of the Commons. We're here to help you learn about the common transition. Don't know whatthat is? Stick with our Commons transition team to find out how this simplething is already all around you. Stay June for more episodes. Hello,Oliver here. Welcome to our first Commons cast podcast, where we explain andexplore the role of the Commons across the world. Today, for this episode, we were able to catch Silka and David together and passing after they gavea talk based on their book free found alive at UCL b. This isall of us speaking, and today I'm joined with Silka and David. Wouldyou guys be able to give me a little bit of background o themselves?Sure, I'm Sola Sok Ahead, coming from Germany. It's Germany to beprecise, and I'm again Commons since two thousand and six, two thousand sevenMorlis, as a scholar and activist, as an author. Fantastic David Bowlierand I've been studying the Commons as an activist and a scholar for about fifteenor twenty years. I work with the Schumacher Center for new economics in Massachusettsand basically we're talking about social change from the inside and the outside, input places in between. And okay, dealist now. I will be completelyhonest with you here. I know very little about the Commons and I reallywant to invite you to join me on this adventure of understanding and learning,and that's the whole basis of this spot us. So, first of all, can I just ask you so good, what is the Commons to you?That comes us to me a life on a way of living that andcompasses basically everything. Where you look at the world, the way you arein the world, way you produced, but you think the way you speak, basically everything. And the word comments, that's a how lot about it.Like comments comes from come monos. Come means it's with the Latin.Come means with, so I do something with other people, which is themost normal thing to do, and Moonos...

...means obligation, qt responsibility, alsogift. So as I contribute, as I do something with other people,I'm asked to contribute, but I also receive the Commons. Is also away of rethinking how we manage our shared wealth, and this can be everythingfrom the infrastructure of public life, public spaces, to online stuff, likesoftware, code or Wikipedia, I could be how we manage land, howwe farm, how we share water. So it's a new way of thinkingoutside of the box of Standard Economics that empowers people and gives them a rolefor initiating how they're going to control the shared wealth now into the future.Except that it's not that new. Well, the comments is old and new.It's I think it's as ancient as the human species, but it's newlydiscovered, perhaps more accurately, because we're coming off of two hundred years ofmarket society and people are starting to say, you know, there's ways that precedemarket behavior that are almost anthropological in terms of how we as a communitymanage something that we all need and depend upon for our survival. And thenyou're able to give an example of that specific but I've given you a fewexamples. But you know all sorts of things like how communities can manage alternativecurrencies so the currency value doesn't flow out to the bankers or international finance institutions. There's community land trusts, there's community supported agriculture, there's countless digital Commonswithin digital spaces, such as open source software, and there's even open designand manufacturing going on these days, and it's all an alternative to what wecall the market state system, which conspires in this grand narrative of progress througheconomic growth, which I think we're reaching...

...an endpoint at as climate change getsworse and worse and is inequality gets worse and worse. So the Commons isabout rethinking some of the structures and social patterns by which we manage our sals. With the Commons it's a fantastic idea. We will understand that. But howcan we act ourselves to contribute to and how can we act as asociety to contribute to? Perhaps the most easiest thing to do is, firstof all put what I call the Commons Lens on, try to see theworld through a lens of the Commons, because there's a lot of out therethat we don't even perceive as Commons are common name, and it's still therebecause it's rooted in in our history or it's there because for the sheer necessity, because the market of the state don't provide a solutions. People need,for instance, to care for their children, are to organize free time, sparetime and the neighborhood are to deal with an infrastructure problem in their neighborhood, etc. So the first thing to do would perhaps to look through theLens of the Commons and then connect to it, like what is it thatthat is attractive to me? What is it that I would like to contributeto? Well, is it that I am able to contribute to because I'velearned to do it, etc. SETER so. Seeing, understanding, doing, contributing and then reflecting on it. So instead of seeing the world assomething we are either a producer or consumer for, we give money for it'sabout entering into a set of social relationships which money doesn't count there, andso we have to give up ourselves and we get something in return, butit's an indirect or often gentle reciprocity and certainly not for cash. And oncecertain types of resources can be managed this way, they are remarkably sustainable.They don't get siphoned away by big money,...

...they don't get bought by somebody,or somebody with money doesn't start to say Oh, I get to governit because I have a lot of money. The community itself has a certain controland of course in England there's a long tradition of Commons which largely wipedout in the seventeen and eighteen century. But people are discovering that those socialpatterns have a durability, in a flexibility that markets and state just often don'thave, and also a different set of priorities and values, because the Commonsis a different worldview and ethic, in different set of social practices for howwe manage the things and that we have in common. So if we wereto move to an economy at fit, yeah, sharing economy, how thatlook in my daily life? Many things would be far cheaper and more suitedto your needs. Markets often do satisfy what satisfies the needs of capital orthe business plan, but people often have needs that are not marketable. Theold and source of software world evolved precisely because Microsoft and Oracle and the bigcompanies we're not meeting their knees with software that could be modified and improved andshared for nothing. And so is that opened up a whole new realm offreedom and creativity that the proprietary software world had no interest in. So wesee this dynamic taking place in many Commons realms where people want freedom, theywant things to be fair and they want things to be interactive. In realtime with their real human selves, which is why we call the title ofour Book Free, fair and alive. The insurgent power of the Commons andmy real life, or now real life, it would suddenly not buy so manythings with money beat don't have to meet needs it didn't even think aboutbefore somebody told us that advertising interestry,...

...that this might be one. Sowe would step out of our condition of being considered and then finally being ina consuming and trying to figure out what is it that that help, takingour life in our own hands, not alone but with others. And howcan I, through doing this, evel of my own capacities, faculties tobe in control off but I really, really, really want to do inmy life, which is perhaps not wait labor for forty or fifty hours aweek. Perhaps I want to do this only for twenty and then engage inthings that are meaningful to us, meaningful to me, to my community andto society. I've seen the Commons described by colins George Mombio as the politicsbelonging, because when you enter into a Commons, you enter into relationships anddevelop a group identity and spirit and purpose that is hard to find these dayswhere you consume your identity by buying an iphone, for example, and sothe Commons is really an entry way to that different type of social relationship,which is only personally satisfying, but it opens the door for a different typeof politics, which is arguably something we need to talk about these days asall these crises bear down on us. So that's where the Commons starts toget really interesting, as people collectively organize themselves and become a vision for adifferent type of society. And, to be more concrete, in my reallife I would have my vegetables and food from a community supported agriculture right.I would share my knowledge as a default position and never put a formal copyrighton it. I would obviously work on a Linux operating system. I wouldcontribute freely to communities to repack a face, to the makeup spaces through the FABlabs. I would help co creating...

...learning communities. I would try tocontribute to these spaces where we take care of each other or we create healthcare without converting healthcare into a commodity term. Thousands of opportunity and this realm hasbeen largely uninvestigated by academics or journalists because it's seen as a bizarre aberration. But if you go through history or across cultures, even today, it'spervasive. It just isn't named and recognized as a common phenomena. And alot of what our books are about patterns of common in his one book theothers, the wealth of the Commons, is to bring together these examples andshow that there's a whole tradition and history and ways of doing things that haveescaped the notice of modern human beings, modern societies, especially those who are, in case, in the empty political discourse that we have. That that'sbrings us back to your common, that the Commons. This is all asmankind and as new as the Internet. Right, it is true that wecan see, or perhaps analyze a find common in practices throughout history and throughoutcultures. But why is it so difficult, though, to enact it today inmy life, but the conditions of nation states that market capitalism? Well, because precisely we've never been in this historical situation, and so we thisis why we don't know how to deal with this. So what we tryto do in our most recent book, freefare and alive, is try tofind these what we call patterns of commoning that give us an idea, aperson orientation of how can we take this spirit of commoning and apply it toour real context. But this final step to apply this thinking, this wayof being to your real context is something that you need to do you yourself, you within your community, within your...

...specific context. There is no recipe, there is no model, there's no Policia, there's something that we needto figure out within a given context by ourselves. This is part of takingresponsibility or corresponsibility, for we two comments, and this is why it is notreally easy, but it's fulfilling and and make a lot of sects wellin a world of rampant alienation and displace aggression and frustrations. I think theCommons is a vehicle for becoming a more evolved human being and you can,we like to think in them the modern West or global north that were developedquote, but I would argue that you can go to a lot of countriesof the global self and find that the human development they're in, the culturein the intact traditions of common in are far more inspiring and I think overthe long term, for humanity survivable, then the path we're headed on rightnow. So I think it's something that serious people should take a look atas a way to regenerate and renew our society. Okay, and both ofyou have touched on your book pretty found alive, and I've had it describedas a handbook, a guide book to commony. So if I were toread it, how could I use it to identify the common in myself?Awesome question. This is an awesome question because I think that this is thepurpose of all book kind of to offer an analysis, a language and,if you tools, a patterns of cominging, as we call them, that allowspeople to connect to that volte of cominging, that is to self identify. As a comment, because I'm really convinced that there is a commnor andoffer. Well, we to help in this process. We identify twenty eightpatterns of comedy and the very simple. They're not prescriptions, but their orientationsand they point you in the right direction...

...for doing it yourself, like practicegentle reciprocity with your fellow commoners, or keep commerce and commoning dist links sothat your relations in the marketplace don't contaminate or poison your relationships in the Commonsor reflect on your pure governance. Pure governance is part of the Commons andyou need to reflect on the terms by which you govern yourself. Are theyfair? Doesn't work well. Are Free riders punished and so forth? Butno. So there are patents that help you understanding. What does it meanto produce, to meet needs differently than on the market? Like not onlythrough one party, one agent, one farmer or one worker produces stuff andthen needs to mediate it through the market and will only be successful if otherpeople might a stuff. No, how can we meet our needs, shadneeds, and such a way that we, for instance, Shatterisk of provisioning youour community with nature, etc. Etc. So all sorts of modelsare out there, but they're often seen. Open source software, community supported agriculture, Community Land Trust for affordable housing or agriculture. All of these areoutside of the market paradigm. So they're just not put in a class differenttypes of commony. But you can easily line them up and you'll have dozensof these different types of examples and you can start to see how it formsthe mosaic or template for a different way of being which we need to explore. Yes, that basically we it say not only about our most recent book. The work we have done is to try to contribute to make the commentsand to common in culture visible website. People are resistant to change. It'sa fundamental part of human nature. What's going to happen to the existing establishmentsthat we have tomorrow? Everyone woke up and fully understood and identified the commonwithin themselves. How would affectiveything today? Well, it's not going to happenovernight. On the other hand, it...

...does have the seeds for different typesof social practices and cultural relationships and values that would begin to supplant the toxic, predatory, extractive society we have today. And what is the source of thatgoing to words? That going to come from our existing institutions? Philanthropy, education, government, market corporations going to incubate that? I don't thinkso. So it's really comes down to a lot of US commoners to showthat we can develop these new paradigms of social behavior and regenerate society, becauseit's not going to come from anywhere else. They will certainly need to creatively adaptand renew at all levels. That the good thing is that the indicationwe make, and and many others with us, is that it come intosomething that you can only freely join. The good news and important thing isto understand that the Commons can only grow if people really choose foot changing somethingin their life, in the way of being or in the way of producing. It can't be such a thing as a coherced comments and it would benot something that would spread. So I think that that will be conflict.But based on it that the idea that the Commons grow and federate on afree basis. That will be probably a reaction to creative, Flye, adaptand renew field. And when even a small minority of people, five percentsay, choose these alternative ways, is profoundly threatening to the powers that bebecause it shows that there's an alternative that is possible in that alternative tends tobe a morally indictment of the existing system, if not a staging area for apolitical alternative. So people shouldn't think that they need to get fifty percentor something to be significant. You can...

...be a very small operation, theway the Linux software was in the late S, in you're going to scaremajor corporations and if you can get five percent of the population as commoners,you're going to scare politicians in what they propose in their agendas. So youknow, a people need to have a little more self confidence in and courageand boldness of vision and how they can envision change. Is it going tobe frontally attacking the main institutions? Not Likely to succeed, even though Ithink those challenges need to be made. I think growing alternatives that have asolid foundation and base and then social cooperation is a really powerful mid term wayto make change. After say now coming is becoming more and more public,is becoming more apparent, it's more known about. And is that because itis more common, or is it also this more understanding around it? It'sbecause a lot of the existence systems are showing that they're not going to workand that is futile or silly, if not insulting, to try to workthrough, quote, legitimate channels. So I think commenting is being embraced asa discourse, a way of talking for thinking about these ways in the timewhen socialism versus capitalism has proven to be a kind of sterile or pretend debatein that we need the future will have a different pattern and the Commons isa way that can start to talk about those new patterns. You know,there is this thing that you did see what you don't know, and Ithink that all, just an extent, spikes to death. So we makeit comments list of will and we try to connect practices that seem to beutterly differend and as seems to be a wildering diversity of practices which people canhardly connect to each other. So what...

...we try to do is connected usand as you go through common literature and thus put the Commons lends on andstart begin to see the connected, that's you will get an idea of howcommoning can spread despite the persisting powers one who. Thank you both so muchfor your time and can you just let us know, me and the listeners, where we can find the book free, fair and alive? One of thebest places to learn more about the book is to go to our website, free, fair and alive dot Org. Well, I would say, hopefullyat the bookshelf of your best friend. That's even better, or even borrowand share it with your friends. So, once again, thank youso much for your time and thank you listenings. Thanks for listening today.You can stay in the lute by subscribing to US email you better. Thecommoner goes to billy forward. Slash the commenter that the IT DOT l yforward. Slash the commoner. Have a great dawn.

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